Photo courtesy Rio Grande Valley FC
After making an impressive run to the USL Cup Playoffs in its inaugural season, Rio Grande Valley FC couldn’t quite provide a second act as the Toros fell just short of a second consecutive postseason berth this past season. Inconsistency, particularly on the road where the side lost 10 games and claimed only four victories, compared to seven away victories in the club's first year.
Things were much brighter for the club off the field, however, as H-E-B Park's official opening immediately became one of the finest venues in the USL. Local fans responded strongly to the Toros' new home as the club moved into the top five in the league in attendance with an average of 7,067 through the regular season. With new Head Coach Gerson Echeverry set to take over in the new year after Junior Gonzalez's departure to become part of the LA Galaxy's coaching staff this offseason, a strong turnaround could be on the cards for the Toros' third season.
Record: 9-15-8, 35pts
Place: 11th in the Western Conference
Goals For: 37
Goals Against: 50
USL Cup Playoffs: Did not qualify
2017 leaders: Kyle Murphy (7 goals), Justin Bilyeu (8 assists), Borja Angoitia (40 saves)
The partnership of Kyle Murphy and Justin Bilyeu proved successful for the Toros, with Bilyeu's midseason arrival from the New York Red Bulls II providing a solid attacking boost to the club as the pair led the way in goals and assists for the team. The Toros needed to adjust under new Head Coach Junior Gonzalez, and managed to do well in the early stages of the season, recovering well after two opening losses to only lose one of the next seven matches. The Toros were competitive for most of the season, spending most of the year in the USL Cup Playoff places but fell just short at the end of the season.
The Toros struggled to close out the season, which saw them drop down the Western Conference standings, and eventually out of the playoff positions. RGVFC won just three of its last 18 matches, with home draws against the likes of the Portland Timbers 2 and Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 in particular standing out as key results down the stretch. At the heart of those issues was the Toros' inability to hold the fort defensively, with the side recording only two shutouts over that 18-game stretch while conceding 34 goals. Improvement defensively will be key to a turnaround next season.
Jose Escalante produced a moment of magic to earn the Toros a victory against their Texas rival San Antonio FC at Toyota Field as he made a strong run into the penalty area, and despite being surrounded by three defenders found space to hit an impressive chip from the left side of the penalty area that dropped into the right side-netting.
Borja Angiotia produced a stellar double-save early on in the Toros' clash with Phoenix Rising FC at H-E-B Park, flying out and stretching to get his hands on the ball, parrying an initial effort by Blair Gavin before bouncing up quickly to get behind Gavin's follow-up chance on the rebound, putting the ball out for a corner.